Tuesday, June 17, 2008

On Reading The Historian

I finished The Historian this morning. Finally. A full month after starting it. Or rather re-starting it. I meant for this post to be a book review but I'm afraid I left it until too late to be coherent about it. It's not so much because I've been awake since before dawn as that I'm still recovering from making the walk to the library yesterday afternoon as the temps topped 80 degrees. It was only the second time I have made that 30 minute each way walk. The first time was the week before I came down with the flu--the week before Easter. The walks to the old building and the temp building used to take about 20 minutes.

It was more than the heat that took it out of me. It was also the weight of the wheeled bag of books that I schlepped home. Because I'd been unable to get there for over two weeks, the books and movies that I'd requested had piled up. Plus on Sunday morning in the wee hours I had ordered a slew of short novels in anticipation of the Read-a-thon at the end of the month. I hadn't expected any of them to arrive by Monday but a half dozen or so did. I could have left them waiting for up to eleven days but once I laid eyes on them how could I just leave them? So I am paying the price today in significant joint pain. I got off light on muscle ache so far.

If I could have known that Ed was going to have today off and that he would go to the library...

I collapsed into bed after doing the dinner dishes last night. That was about seven. So I woke before six this morning. I set as my priority task today to finish The Historian and to write the review for today's post. I had just under 70 pages left and estimated 2-2.5 hours. It took 3.5. In order to minimize distractions--TV, laptop, Merlin, other books--I took Merlin out to the back yard with me and staked his leash where he was just out of reach of my legs. He spent the time eating rose petals, chasing bugs in the grass, eating grass, watching something super fascinating beyond the fence, trying to spot the yakking birds and alternately sunning himself and scooting under the table or chair for shade where he occasionally tangled his leash. Well once or twice maybe. The only time(s) I got up from my chair between 8:15 and 11:45 were to untangle him.

I suppose I should have gotten right to the review but I fiddled around with this and that--IM with my sister, watching news, browsing in the half dozen or so books coming due in the next week, . To prioritize, I told myself. But it was the thrilling sense of freedom to pick up other books at last that was the primary motivator.

It must sound like the novel was a dud seeing as it took me so long to finish. But I still feel it was one of the best novels I've read in years. Nearly all my difficulties with it are related to the physical aspects of reading it. Mostly due to my vision deficits. The print was small and I think there wasn't enough contrast between font and page color. I think the font was more gray than black and the page tinted off white. Then there were those long sections, often dozens of pages long, in italics to indicate correspondence. Sometimes I could not read those for more than five minutes unless I put on the visor with 3.5 magnification which I use for fine needlework. Reading with that visor induces motion sickness after awhile though.

I really loved the story. The prose was exquisite. The plot was intricate. The characters were complex. History itself was such a presence it was very nearly a character--it seemed to breathe on the page.

I'm not meaning to imply I had no problems at all with the story as such. I wasn't entirely satisfied with the ending, especially the epilogue. That and the last scene of the last chapter seemed tacked on after most of the plot threads seemed to have been wrapped up. The remaining questions I had were not answered by those ending pages and more questions were raised by them which leads me to believe Kostova might be setting us up for a sequel. But I am digressing into review territory here which is going to severely dampen any enthusiasm for writing a review.

I must admit, I sometimes feel bitter that I am unable to devour a large novel in a day or two like I once could. Especially on days when I watch Ed read a 500+ page novel in under 9 hours Small of me. I know.

OK. Time to pull out the gratitude journal.

And get some sleep!!!

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